Tremendous strides have been made in eradicating infectious disease scourges such as smallpox and polio that once killed and crippled millions; still, about 15 million deaths—or about one third of all deaths annually—result from infectious diseases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Of those, nearly half involve children under the age of 5 years, predominantly in poorer countries. The ongoing hefty death toll, the pharmaceutical industry’s increasing interest in the research and development of vaccines, and plentiful funding from multiple sources all combine to provide a range of opportunities for postdocs and graduate students in vaccine research. The field is high growth and, perhaps more important, the fruits of this work promise to have a real impact on the health of the world’s population.
Many scientists opt for a research career in the pharmaceutical or biotech industry, so why not kick-start the process by also doing a postdoc in industry? Industrial postdocs often provide higher salaries and greater access to resources than their academic counterparts. But how do you find out about available positions and whether they are a good fit for you? Will a position as a postdoctoral fellow provide you a foot in the door at a company? And what if you don't like it? Will an industrial postdoc cut you off from returning to academia?